Water scarcity in Manipur

P Jadumani Singh *

 Water scarcity in Imphal City as on 30 April  2014
Water scarcity in Imphal City as on 30 April 2014 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

Water for drinking and cooking, water for washing clothes and utensils, water for spraying the plants , water for taking bath etc are all in scarcity in Manipur during the beginning of every summer. It is almost an annual phenomenon that we have been facing this water scarcity due to reckless management of the government on the stock and demand policy.

Water sources in Manipur are ponds, rivers, lakes, underground pumps etc. As population increases, the demand for water increases. So there is imbalance between availability and demand. Manipur government, in fact, has no long term plans for keeping sufficient stock availability of water by taking up different steps in the absence of big rivers in the state.

The climate of Manipur is healthgiving with average annual rainfall ranging from 995 mm in Imphal valley to 2590 mm in Tamenglong district. During the tenure of Sri W. Nipamacha Singh as Chief Minister of Manipur, many community ponds of sizeable perimeters, each to cover the population of some ¾ localities were constructed to harvest the rain water to cope up the contingent needs of the surrounding areas. Since the constructions of the ponds were in the contractual system, which everybody knows about in Manipur, quality control was not maintained.

The dug up soils were used in the making of the boundary banks of the ponds and required depths were not adhered to. Till today no renovation works are seen taken up, especially in the depth which is very important to hold more volume of water for longer period use and to sustain the availability of water from drying up.

The causes of water scarcity are that there is not enough water for the use of the local population. The lakes are silting day by day along with narrowing wides due to encroachment. The rivers are narrowing due to deposits of carried over soils on either sides.Manipur has an area of 22,327 and is situated between the latitudes of 23.80 degree N and 25.68 degree N and longitudes of 93.3 degree E and 94.78 degree E. This cup- shaped land is having series of hill ranges.

The plants and trees in the hilly forests which will conserve water during rainy season are burnt down by the villagers for their jhum cultivation, which will not bring them sufficient income as far as ecolozy and environmental aspect are concerned. Felling of trees for commercial purposes is being carried out by the hill people. The forest area of 17,418 sq. Km. which can conserve water during rainy season can play very important role in minimising the problem of water scarcity in Manipur.

But day by day maximum areas of the state forest have become barren due to wild burning and random felling of trees. Manipur experiences three seasons of summer, winter and monsoon with the minimum and maximum temperstures of 0 degree centrigrade and 35 degree centigrade respectively. Every year monsoon reaches Manipur from the first week of June to continue upto the end of September. The scarcity period of water is three months from March to June.Rivers, ponds, lakes etc are dried up during this period and there is no rainfall also in the state.

More than three-fourths of the earth’ surface is covered with water, out of which 97% are salty and 3% as fresh water. 70% of the fresh water are found in the form of ice caps and glaciers and the remaining are available in lakes, rivers, ponds and in the ground while a small amount of it as vapours in the atmosphere. Water in the oceans and fresh water bodies are warmed and evaporated by the heat of the sun. As a result, water goes into the atmosphere as vapours, leaving behind the impurities contained in it.

Another aspect of water becoming vapours is through transpiration. In this process, plants absorb water from the soil and then water moves through the stems from the roots to the leaves. Once the water reaches the leaves, some of it evaporates from the leaves, adding to the amount of water vapours coming from the oceans, ponds, rivers, lakes etc.

When the water vapour reaches in the sky, its temperature decreases and condenses forming waterdroplets. The droplets of suspended water form clouds in the sky or fog near the earth’s surface. Due to low temperature and atmospheric pressure, the small droplets of water in the clouds form larger droplets and precipitation occurs. The raindrops fall to the earth. In short, through the processof evaporation and transpiration, water moves into the sky.

Water vapours then join with the dust particles to form clouds in the sky.Eventually, water returns to the earth as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, hails etc.Since clouds contain water, we will not see any cloud in the desert, because there is very little water there to evaporate and form clouds. Coastal regions receive more water because of moisturisation from the surrounding waters. Cloud sizes depend on the heat of the sun, mountaineous ranges of forests, water bodies, global warming etc.

Remedial measures:

1. Since water has become scarce, rainwater can be harvested and stored for use during the scarcity period of March to May every year. Water harvesting is the direct collection of rainwater. The rainwater collected, which is the primary source of water, can be directly used or used in the future and can be recharged into the groundwater. Rivers, lakes, ponds and groundwater are all secondary sources of water.

But in Manipur,we entirely depend on lakes, rivers, ponds. Rainwater harvesting can be taken up through runoff water from the rooftops, floodwaters from the streams/rivulets, watershed management etc. Water harvesting will give us water for drinking, washing, irrigation, groundwater recharging etc and reduce the urban/rural floods. Since surface and ground water resources are fast exhausted than they can be recharged, rainwater harvesting, which can be taken up individually, is an alternative arrangement to cope the water scarcity in Manipur.

2. Since the local community ponds are silted and narrow in length and breadth, they are required to be renovated to maintain deep depth and big perimeter to hold big volume of water, which will be used during the lean period of March to May. The government water supply and homestead ponds should be used during other times. This arrangement is required in Manipur since every year water scarcity is prevalent.

3. The Loktak Development Authority should ensure that the silting process in the lake is prevented by dredging out the solid materials like plant wastes, muds etc along with widening of the lengh and breadth and also take up the forestry work along the perimeter.

4. The lakes like Khoidumpat, Kharungpat, sanapat etcare dried up during the during the period od water scarcity. Government should take up the work of deepening the depth of the lakes to hold more water during the lean period to supply more water to the surrounding villages.

5. The government has taken up the work of narrowing up the Leishang Hiden which is is a historical lake/fort for broadening of the National Highway from M.U. gate to Lilong bridge, which requires 150 ft only in width. Unnecessarily government has broaden the road upto 300 ft around. It is an appeal to the concerned authority in the interest of keeping more volume of water for use that the breadth and length of the Hiden be kept at 150 ft and 20 ft respectively.

The water volume of 3000x150x20 cu.ft will definitely feed a population of nearly 15,000 families for a period of three months i.e. March to May. Likewise, Kanglapat may be deepened upto 15 ft for storage of water for the Imphal municipality areas.

6. Lastly, Lamphelpat is still swampy, which means that it is remaining as lake. We may make a big pond/lake here at an area of 2000 ft length and 300 ft breadth along with a depth of 20 ft. This water of six million cu.ft. will definitely feed more than fifty thousand people during the scarcity period.

* P Jadumani Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 05, 2014.

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